Kingdom of Lithuania

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Kingdom of Lithuania

Lietuvos Karalystė
Territorial evolution of Lithuania in the 13–15th centuries
Territorial evolution of Lithuania in the 13–15th centuries
Common languagesLithuanian, Ruthenian
GovernmentFeudal Monarchy
• 1251–1263
• Status of kingdom received
17 July 1251
• Coronation of Mindaugas
6 July 1253
• Mindaugas assassinated
Autumn 1263
ISO 3166 codeLT
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Duchy of Lithuania
Grand Duchy of Lithuania

The Kingdom of Lithuania was a Lithuanian monarchy which existed roughly from 1251 to 1263.[1] King Mindaugas was the first and only Lithuanian monarch crowned King of Lithuania. The status of a kingdom was lost after Mindaugas' assassination in 1263 as the country remained pagan in the following centuries.

Other monarchs of Lithuania were referred to as Grand Dukes, even though their status was almost identical to that of a king. Because Lithuania was pagan in the 13–14th century, Lithuanian monarchs did not receive a recognised kingdom status in medieval Europe (where a crown was to be received from the Pope or Holy Roman Emperor). They were, however, still referred to as Kings (Rex) in diplomatic correspondence and chronicles.[2] For instance, Gediminas titled himself King of Lithuania and part of Rus, and Duke of Semigalia. The Pope also addressed him as King.

After the introduction of Christianity and the creation of the union with Poland, the Kings of Poland–Lithuania retained the separate titles of Grand Dukes of Lithuania and Kings of Poland (similarly to how the Emperors of Austria–Hungary had retained the separate titles of Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, to some extent).

Three attempts were made to re-establish the Kingdom status – by Vytautas the Great in 1430, by Švitrigaila who wanted to continue Vytautas' attempts at coronation, and by the Council of Lithuania in 1918.

King Mindaugas[edit]

The papal bull regarding Lithuania's placement under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome

In the early 13th century, Lithuania was inhabited by various pagan Baltic tribes, which began to organize themselves into a state – the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. By the 1230s, Mindaugas emerged as the leader of the Grand Duchy. In 1249, an internal war erupted between Mindaugas and his nephews Tautvilas and Edivydas. As each side searched for foreign allies, Mindaugas succeeded in convincing the Livonian Order not only to provide military assistance, but also to secure for him the royal crown of Lithuania in exchange for his conversion to Catholicism and some lands in western Lithuania. The status of a kingdom was granted on 17 July 1251, when the Bishop of Chełmno was ordered to crown Mindaugas by Pope Innocent IV.[1] Two years later, Mindaugas and his wife Morta were crowned King and Queen of Lithuania.[1] In 1255, Mindaugas received permission from Pope Alexander IV to crown his son King of Lithuania.

The coronation and the alliance with the Livonian Order allowed for a period of peace between Lithuania and Livonia. During that time, the Lithuanians expanded east, while Livonia attempted to conquer Samogitia. Enticed by his nephew Treniota, Mindaugas broke the peace after the Order was defeated in the Battle of Skuodas in 1259 and the Battle of Durbe in 1260. Lithuanian forces were however unable to prevent the devastating Mongol invasion of Lithuania in 1258–1259.[3] Treniota's influence grew as he waged a war against the Order and his priorities began to diverge from those of Mindaugas.[4] The conflict resulted in the assassination of Mindaugas and two of his sons in 1263. The country reverted to paganism and its status as a kingdom was lost. The state survived as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the subsequent monarchs are known as Grand Dukes as they could not be crowned Kings until they converted to Christianity (the Christianization of Lithuania occurred only in 1387).

Attempts to re-establish the Kingdom[edit]

200 litas commemorative coin dedicated to the 750th anniversary of Mindaugas' coronation

There was an attempt by Grand Duke Vytautas the Great (ruled 1392–1430) to receive the royal crown. At the Congress of Lutsk in 1430, Sigismund, King of Hungary who was yet to be elected Holy Roman Emperor, offered Vytautas the crown, and proclaimed Lithuania a kingdom. It did not come to fruition, because of the opposition from Polish nobles and later from Władysław II Jagiełło.[5] According to some historians, the crown was sent to Lithuania by Sigismund, but it was intercepted by Polish forces,[6] but in reality Sigismund sent only the documents proposing an alliance between him, Vytautas and the Teutonic Order, and a judgement from legal experts that the coronation could be performed by the bishop of Vilnius.[7] Soon afterwards, Vytautas died without having been crowned King.

Following the Union of Lublin, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania became a part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. While the kings of Poland were also titled Grand Dukes of Lithuania, they did not use the title of King of Lithuania, and the two parts of the Commonwealth were known to as the Grand Duchy and the Polish Crown.

After Lithuania declared independence in February 1918, the monarchy was re-established and the 2nd Duke of Urach was invited to become King Mindaugas II. However, the monarchy was short-lived and Mindaugas II never visited Lithuania.[8] The Kingdom of Lithuania was a client-state of the German Empire, and following Germany's defeat in World War I in the fall of 1918, the idea of a monarchy was abandoned in favor of a democratic republic.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Gudavičius, Edvardas (1998). Mindaugas (in Lithuanian). Vilnius: Žara. ISBN 9986-34-020-9.
  2. ^ "Codex diplomaticus Lithuaniæ (1253-1433), ed. E. Raczynski" (in Latin). Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  3. ^ Darius, Baronas (2006). "THE ENCOUNTER BETWEEN FOREST LITHUANIANS AND STEPPE TATARS IN THE TIME OF MINDAUGAS" (PDF). Lithuanian Historical Studies (11): 1–16.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Kiaupa, Zigmantas (2002). "Mindaugo karalystės raida". Gimtoji istorija. Nuo 7 iki 12 klasės (in Lithuanian). Vilnius: Elektroninės leidybos namai. ISBN 9986-9216-9-4. Archived from the original on 3 March 2008.
  5. ^ Frost 2015, p. 142-150.
  6. ^ Stone, Daniel (2001). The Polish–Lithuanian State, 1386–1795. A History of East Central Europe. University of Washington Press. p. 11. ISBN 0-295-98093-1.
  7. ^ Frost 2015, p. 148-149
  8. ^ Page, Stanley W. (1959). The Formation of the Baltic States. Harvard University Press. p. 94. OCLC 100463.


Frost, Robert (2015). The Oxford History of Poland-Lithuania. The Making of the Polish-Lithuanian Union, 1385—1569. Oxfrod. ISBN 978-0-19-820869-3.